[Marxism] Pentagon Steps Up Intelligence Efforts Inside U.S. Borders (WSJ)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Apr 27 14:34:26 MDT 2006


April 27, 2006
	
PAGE ONE

Neighborhood Watch
Pentagon Steps Up
Intelligence Efforts
Inside U.S. Borders
Post-9/11 Campaign Includes
Tracking Antiwar Protests,
Mining Large Databases
'Collecting' vs. 'Receiving'
By ROBERT BLOCK and JAY SOLOMON
April 27, 2006; Page A1
WALL STREET JOURNAL

AKRON, Ohio -- On March 19, 2005, about 200 mainly middle-aged peace
marchers made their way through the streets of this city, stopping
outside a Marine Corps recruiting center and a Federal Bureau of
Investigation office to listen to speeches against the Iraq war.
Close behind, police in unmarked cars followed them -- acting on a
tip from the Pentagon.

For weeks prior to the demonstration, analysts at the Army's 902nd
Military Intelligence Group in Fort Meade, Md., were downloading
information from activist Web sites, intercepting emails and
cross-referencing this with information in police databases.

The Army's conclusion, contained in an alert to Akron police: "Even
though these demonstrations are advertised as 'peaceful,' they are
assessed to present a potential force protection threat."

The Akron protest and seven others monitored by the Army that month
turned out to be nonviolent. Pentagon officials later issued an
apology, admitting that some of the information in military databases
shouldn't have been there. But they called that a minor slip in a
critical program to protect Americans.

The government's monitoring of the protests is one example of how the
9/11 terror attacks have sparked a broad effort by the Pentagon to
gather intelligence within U.S. borders. Its goals are both to
protect military facilities and keep an eye out for any threat on
American soil.

After 9/11, the Bush administration declared the continental U.S. a
theater of military operations for the first time since the Civil
War, creating a demand to better research potential threats to
American forces at home. Now several parts of the vast Pentagon
bureaucracy are building large databases of information from sources
including local police, military personnel and the Internet. In doing
so, the military is edging toward a sensitive area that has been
off-limits to it since the 1970s: domestic surveillance and law
enforcement.

One widely reported part of the new information battle is the
National Security Agency's wiretapping of calls without a warrant
between people in the U.S. and suspected terrorists overseas. The
agency is part of the Defense Department. That practice is just one
piece of a larger, less-discussed effort.

The military justifies the gathering of domestic intelligence in part
by relying on a key distinction between "receiving" information and
"collecting" it. Military regulations over the past few decades have
generally barred using soldiers to gather information on American
citizens. Officials have interpreted the rules to mean that receiving
information from the police or federal agencies is acceptable.

"We are receiving information lawfully gathered by other agencies and
then following up on it to make an assessment," says Cmdr. Greg
Hicks, a Pentagon spokesman.

Further, the military says it doesn't order civilian law-enforcement
officials such as the police or the FBI to do anything. Military
officials say they may point out items of concern such as the Akron
march but it's up to police whether to listen.

The broad Pentagon effort comes amid a surge of popular support after
the 9/11 attacks for more vigilant efforts to prevent terrorism.
Polls continue to show backing for aggressive moves. In a March Wall
Street Journal/NBC News poll1, 52% of those surveyed said they
supported the NSA wiretaps without a warrant, while 46% said they
were opposed.

The military moves nonetheless face both political and practical
objections. Civil libertarians fear a return to the Vietnam era, when
military personnel collected information on more than 100,000
Americans, infiltrated church youth groups and posed as reporters to
interview activists, according to a 1975 Senate investigation.
Critics say the receiving-versus-collecting distinction makes little
sense if the Pentagon is taking in huge amounts of data, organizing
it, analyzing it and using it to influence law enforcement.

"Today military spies can compile more information about antiwar
protesters by 'receiving' it off the Web than its gumshoes used to
collect by watching demonstrations," says Christopher Pyle, a former
Army intelligence officer who disclosed the military's surveillance
of civilian politics in the 1960s to Congress and worked to end it.
Mr. Pyle is now a professor of politics at Mt. Holyoke College in
Massachusetts.

Because of the secrecy surrounding the programs, the results of the
Pentagon's efforts -- including any possible successes in preventing
terrorism -- are unknown. President Bush and other officials have
said that Americans often don't see such successes because revealing
them would help terrorists. Mr. Bush's critics, aside from their
civil-liberties concerns, say monitoring antiwar activities may turn
out to be a waste of resources by diverting attention from known
terrorists.

According to documents seen by The Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon
has monitored more than 20 antiwar groups' activities around the
country over the past three years. It has reviewed photographs and
records of vehicles and protesters at marches to see if different
activities were being organized by the same instigators. Cmdr. Hicks
says the point of this monitoring is to keep military personnel away
from places where they might provoke demonstrators, not to interfere
with anyone's right to protest.

The peace activists don't like being watched. About 300 activists
gathered at Akron's public library this February to complain to
elected representatives at a public hearing. They had watched an NBC
News report in December that said the Pentagon included peace group
activities in a database of potential terrorist threats. Documents
viewed by The Wall Street Journal show that, as the activists
suspected, their Quaker-organized rally in March 2005 was on the
Pentagon's watch list. Those documents show a broader effort to
gather information for databases and analyze it.

'Eerie Feeling'

Pat Carano, a veteran of Ohio peace marches since the Vietnam War,
told the meeting of the "eerie feeling" of being watched when he saw
the unmarked police cars. "It's ridiculous," said Donna Schapps, a
grandmother of four from Stow, Ohio. "Quakers are not terrorists. We
believe in peace."

Strict limits on soldiers doing the work of police date back to the
Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, enacted in response to a public backlash
against troops maintaining civil order in the South during
Reconstruction. The act generally prohibits the military from
domestic law-enforcement activities.

The military's secret monitoring of dissidents during the Vietnam War
led to a slew of laws, regulations and executive orders that pushed
the military out of domestic spying and created walls between
domestic and foreign intelligence.

After Sept. 11, 2001, those walls came in for criticism from a broad
range of experts. The bipartisan 9/11 Commission concluded that U.S.
intelligence agencies needed to do a better job of coordinating and
connecting leads. The Pentagon itself believed it might have
prevented the attacks if its ability to operate within the U.S. were
less circumscribed, and decided to take a fresh look at the
post-Vietnam rules.

On Nov. 5, 2001, Lt. Gen. Robert W. Noonan Jr., then the Army's
deputy chief of staff for intelligence, sent a memo to Army
commanders titled, "Collecting Information on U.S. Persons3."

"Contrary to popular belief, there is no absolute ban on intelligence
components collecting U.S. person information," it said. Gen. Noonan
noted that while the military was normally barred from using its own
assets to collect information about people living in the U.S.,
military intelligence "may receive information from anyone,
anytime...if only to determine its intelligence value.

"Remember," the memo stressed, "merely receiving information does not
constitute 'collection' " under Army regulations.

Michael Varhola, an official in the Army inspector general's office,
repeated the message in a January 2002 article in the quarterly
Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin. Even though many types
of information gathering were perfectly legal, Mr. Varhola wrote,
"unfortunately some individuals find it easier or safer to avoid the
issue altogether by simply not collecting the data on citizens they
may need to do their complete jobs."

As such views spread, several parts of the Pentagon empire soon swung
into action to formalize information-gathering efforts, though they
weren't all necessarily acting in concert. In February 2002, Paul
Wolfowitz, then the deputy defense secretary, formed a unit at
Pentagon headquarters to manage all military counterintelligence
programs. Its name was Counter Intelligence Field Activity. CIFA,
whose exact size and budget remain secret, has grown to include nine
directorates. Its main focus is on protecting defense facilities and
personnel from terrorist attacks.

Some of the raw data feeding into CIFA headquarters comes from a
reporting process called Talon (short for "Threat and Local
Observation Notice"). Talon started out as an Air Force reporting
form that airmen could fill out and hand in if they noticed anything
unusual around the base. In May 2003, the Pentagon made Talon the
standard method for service members in all the armed forces to report
"nonvalidated" information about possible terrorist activity. Talon
reports can now be filled out online.

Connecting the Dots

Pentagon officials compare the process to a neighborhood-watch
program. Cmdr. Hicks says Talon is the place where the Department of
Defense "initially stores the 'dots' of information, which, if
validated, might later be connected before an attack occurs."

To connect the dots, the Pentagon has turned to data mining, the
science of extracting patterns from large volumes of raw information.
In theory, reports of unusual incidents such as those collected by
Talon could be added to electronic records of business transactions,
Internet usage and police activity to deduce where terrorists are
gearing up for an attack.

A December 2002 report issued by Sen. Richard Shelby, then vice
chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said CIFA was working
with the Justice Department to develop "deep access data-mining
techniques" to discover potential threats to the U.S. from
terrorists.

As Mr. Wolfowitz was starting up CIFA, researchers at a separate
Pentagon unit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, began
work on a massive data-capturing program known as Total Information
Awareness. This program, too, envisioned mining government databases
and personal records of individuals for patterns that would predict a
terrorist attack. A huge public outcry over the project led Congress
to cancel it in October 2003 -- but Congress created a specific
exemption for tools that might aid "counterterrorism foreign
intelligence."

Many computer programs and techniques developed during the Total
Information Awareness project quietly survived. Some were taken up by
the Army's 902nd Military Intelligence Group. The 902nd, established
during World War II and known as the "Deuce," is part of the Army
command structure and separate from CIFA at Pentagon headquarters.
Nonetheless, the 902nd plays an important military-wide role because
it is the military's largest counterintelligence unit and has
hundreds of soldiers stationed around the country.

Charles Harlan, who heads the 902nd's analysis center, published an
article in the Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin in January
2005 describing how his unit processed information to help the
Pentagon predict attacks against the military in the U.S. He
described three data-mining and artificial-intelligence programs as
key to the effort -- all three of which were components of the
defunct Total Information Awareness project.

The 902nd has access to Talon, but it also makes extensive use of
another information system created after 9/11. This system, called
the Joint Regional Information Exchange System, gathers information
collected by civilian law enforcement agencies around the country.
The Pentagon and local authorities including the New York Police
Department and California's justice department set it up in December
2002. The idea was to give military personnel access to
terror-related information on U.S. residents without violating any
prohibitions on the military collecting domestic intelligence.

The Pentagon's regional information-exchange system got a boost when
the Department of Homeland Security took it over and expanded it to
include information from all 50 states and major urban areas.

The system doesn't just serve military personnel. A police department
in one place can put a query out to other cities or states seeking
information on, say, license plates or phone numbers of terrorist
suspects. Many police departments purchase commercially available
information about individuals, such as credit data and online viewing
habits, as part of investigations. They can post this information on
the exchange system.

Military members can also issue a query seeking information on any
topic they like, but they can't command any civilian participant to
do anything. In theory they could ask for personal data on
individuals via the exchange system, but it isn't clear whether they
do so and if so under what circumstances.

All of these strands came together to prompt the police's shadowing
of peace protesters in the spring of 2005. Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld told the Senate last month that the Department of Homeland
Security was the source of information in Pentagon databases about at
least three antiwar protests at military recruiting centers -- two in
Vermont and one in Washington, D.C.

A number of leads also came from the Talon reports. The two-page
alert from the 902nd Military Intelligence Group that prompted the
Akron police to follow the Quaker-organized rally attaches a
nine-digit Army Talon number to that protest. It also gives separate
numbers for each of seven other protests organized for the second
anniversary of the Iraq war. The memo says officials at the 902nd had
used some of their data-analysis techniques to look for signs of
hidden coordination between the protests.

Analysts at the 902nd's headquarters in Ft. Meade also scrutinized
antiwar Web sites looking for threats, including the possibility that
protesters might attack military personnel.

The alert memo, signed by Army official Claude G. Benner Jr.,
portrayed the imminent demonstrations as "threats." It gave a
detailed description of activists' Web sites, noting that some
featured a "help desk" where would-be protesters could get tips on
organizing a demonstration. The memo also raised the possibility that
military supporters might assault the protesters. Mr. Benner warned
that "the potential for a spontaneous, unprovoked attack against
either the demonstrators or pro-US Military persons is assessed as
HIGH."

In the end the Akron march was peaceful. A report compiled by the
Army and presented last May to the U.S. Northern Command, which is in
charge of joint military operations in the continental United States,
threw cold water on the idea that hidden provocateurs might be
organizing multiple protests around the country. "We have not noted a
significant connection between incidents (i.e. reoccurring
instigators at protests, vehicle descriptions)," said the report.

Cmdr. Hicks at the Pentagon says the assessment that the Akron
protest posed a threat "was based on the best information available
at the time, which was lawfully received from another federal
agency." He declines to name the agency. Cmdr. Hicks adds: "The fact
that the marches proceeded peacefully is irrelevant to leveling
criticisms against the Army in this instance. Hindsight is always
20/20."





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